My 5-year-old son scooted up close to me at the kitchen table and leaned in.
Clutching a chocolate milk, he beamed at his 3-year-old sister, Kate, who sat on my other side. I could tell by his affectionate glance at Kate that he was about to say something he was proud of.
Then he said to me:
“You know, Kate and me love rolling around on the ground in circles together. Kate is really good at rolling. And you know how my other sisters are scared to hide under the blankets and play tent? Well, Kate is never scared to hide under the blankets.”
I smiled at the sweet things 5-year-olds value about their sisters.
Then he said, “Down syndrome makes her really good at some things.”
I laughed and pulled my boy in for a hug.
We don’t talk about Kate having Down syndrome very often — but it’s something that has come up a few times: like when he asked why Kate doesn’t talk as well as her little sister or why she isn’t as good at jumping as other kids her age.
We talk about it as we try to instill empathy, patience and acceptance of others’ differences. But we’re always quick to balance it with the point that it’s just one extra unique thing (among many) that makes Kate who she is.
Kate has Down syndrome — which is very different than Kate is Down syndrome.
It is just one aspect of her beautiful, intricate design — one thing that can cause some things to be a little extra hard for her, but other things will come a little extra easy for her. It is something that affects her, not something that defines her.
When we start defining people by just an aspect of who they are, we lose their humanity. All of us may not have Down syndrome — but all of us are uniquely made where some things are extra hard for us and other things are extra easy. We all have things that others may be confused or frightened by — and things that others may be inspired by and drawn to.
A Down syndrome diagnosis in itself is only a sentence of a novel. Only a stroke of paint in a beautiful painting — a chord in a love song. It is not the full picture.
If you only know one thing about Down syndrome, know this:
It is something people have, not something people are. It is only a part of a unique, amazing human being who has incredible purpose and inestimable worth.